Monday, January 14, 2008

Hmmm...that whole "Google" thing seems to be working out O.K.

Interesting wire story on website names in today's Journal Gazette. Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi decries the recent barrage of "oddly named companies":

So why the rampant cuteness? Is the idea to make tech-related companies feel warm and fuzzy and not so sterile and impersonal?

Many tech companies tend to follow two naming strategies these days, says Anthony Shore, global director of naming and writing at Landor Associates, a San Francisco design company: the “nonsense” name (Joost) and names that use familiar-but-misspelled words (Flickr).

Shore, for one, likes neither strategy: “It just feels like they’re throwing in the towel. It’s easy to find an existing word and drop out a letter. It’s easy to come up with arbitrary sounds, or to just add an ‘oo.’ It’s far more difficult to come up with names with real words that have meanings and connections with people.”

Don't be so quick to take Shore's advice, however. On his blog, for example, Seth Godin called Flickr a "good name," in large part because it's a little odd. Odd names, Godin explains, allow you to be first in a Google search--and being first on Google sure beats being 3,475th. None of this should be surprising, though, from a guy who named a website "Squidoo."

My take? I'm somewhere in the middle--and Google itself is a great example why. The name "Google" is a play on the word "
googol,*" so it's not complete nonsense. But part of the reason it works is that it's fun to say. Which means it gets repeated. Which makes it sticky.

But there's a more important reason why the name "Google" works: they have a phenomenal product. Even though it's fun to say, there wouldn't have been much to talk about if it were just another website.

So what should you name your website? Well, the experts seem to have mixed opinions. But one thing's certain: if you have something phenomenal to offer, people will go out of their way to remember your name, no matter how goofy it is.

*No lie: without even thinking about it, I looked up the definition on "," which follows the Flickr model of names. Why do I remember it? Because it's a great, fast online dictionary.


ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

I tend to agree with you and Seth. A name can be limiting such as Stellhorn One Hour Photo, that now has one location on Dupont & Coldwater Roads. I was at a networking meeting recently and asked the folks how they would pronounce "Scloho" and about 95% did it correctly.

Scloho was a name I chose due to its uniqueness and its origin. (The first two letters of my first, middle, and last name.) How did you come up with SoundBite Back?

Anthony Juliano said...

Thanks for visiting, Scott. Great post yesterday on DeHaven.

Good question about the name of this blog. “SoundBite" refers to the posts being short and timely (well, at least that's the goal), while "Back" is a reference to the interactivity that blogs encourage. And getting "Bite Back" in there is a fun play on words that says a little something about the tone of the site, I think.

I also wanted something easy to say and fairly easy to spell (although I also grabbed "SoundByte Back" and redirected that link here, just in case).